Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Last Night at the Lobster

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan was originally published in 2007. My hardcover copy has 146 pages.This is a brilliant, exquisitly crafted novel. It rings true on every page. It's short, but every word was carefully chosen and every description is perfect. In Last Night at the Lobster we are following the day of Manny, the manager of a Red Lobster on its last day of business. We're privy to his thoughts as he follows his routine and company policies, as he manages the employees who do show up, and as he deals with the snow outside that is developing into a blizzard. A perfect novel. Rating: 5

Perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall, the Red Lobster hasn't been making its numbers and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift. With four shopping days left until Christmas, Manny must convince his near-mutinous staff to hunker down and serve the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he's wondering how to handle the waitress he's still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend at home, and where to find the present that will make everything better.

Last Night at the Lobster is a poignant yet redemptive look at what a man does when he discovers that his best might not be good enough.

"Mall traffic on a gray winter's day, stalled. Midmorning and the streetlights are still on, weakly....The turning lane waits for the green arrow above to blink on, and a line of salted cars takes a left into the mall entrance, splitting off as they sniff for parking spots." pg. 1

"He could be a broker, or a floor associate from Circuit City taking his coffee break, except the nametag peeking from beneath his unzipped leather jacket features a garish lobster above his name: MANNY." pg. 2

"Two months ago Manny had forty-four people working for him, twenty of them full-time. Tonight when he locks the doors, all but five will lose their jobs, and one of those five - unfairly, he thinks, since he was their leader - will be himself. Monday the survivors will start at the Olive Garden..." pg. 3

"Their SUV's chew through the snow and plug the parking spots, for one day justifying their pricey four-wheel drive." pg. 30

"Someone's going to show up, and if no one does, we're still going to be ready for them. We're still in business, and we're still getting paid." pg. 57

"He wants to believe that with another cook - someone with more patience and less of a temper - Fredo would have made it, but he's never worked with a cook like that. Honestly, a cook like that probably doesn't exist. Pg. 58

"[A]s he's standing there he notices the ceramic holder that should be full of sugar and Equal and Splenda and Sweet'n Low packets has been picked clean - always a danger with these cottonheads, their memories of the Depression pushing them beyond thrift into greed." pg. 66

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